XConf is an integral part of the Thoughtworks event calendar. As a series of events that’s “created by technologists for technologists” it’s an opportunity for Thoughtworkers and friends to explore and address some most pressing questions and challenges facing the technology industry. Most importantly, it’s a way for us to contribute to and help cultivate tech communities in regions all around the world. That’s why there’s not just one XConf event; there’s always a series, with speakers moving from city to city, bringing together technologists from all over the world.
Of course, for obvious reasons that hasn’t really been possible in the last few years. That made this year’s XConf events particularly special — it was a chance for people to connect in-person, and to meet, reflect, and share ideas in a way that is incredibly difficult to replicate remotely.
At this year’s Manchester event, held in the historic Museum of Science and Industry, there was a great atmosphere as we all quickly remembered just how exciting and energizing a conference can be.
We know one of the main reasons for attending a technology conference is to supercharge learning from the experiences that are shared. This is front and center as we put together the programme of talks to make sure we cover a wide range of thought provoking topics and speakers share experiences that are of immediate relevance to our audience.
Insights drawn from industry experience
While community and atmosphere are undeniably important when discussing conferences, the success of XConf ultimately stems from the talks. Every agenda — always packed with intriguing titles — promises a wealth of insight built on the experiences of technologists working in many different types of roles and on very different projects.
In Manchester, the keynote from Asim Hussain exemplified exactly what XConf is all about — a frank look at some of the challenges technologists need to address, with a clear and ultimately hopeful exploration of the tactics, tools, and approaches, we can use collectively to address them. Hussain is the Green Cloud Advocacy Lead at Microsoft and Executive Director of the Green Software Foundation; his keynote explored the environmental impact of software, with a focus on the challenges of measuring carbon emissions. He highlighted the Green Software Foundation’s Software Carbon Intensity (SCI) specification, which is intended to not only build an industry consensus around carbon emission metrics, but also to help guide actions to minimize the environmental impact of our software.
Elsewhere, the diverse range of talks throughout the day provided delegates with a chance to take a peek at the incredibly broad range of work being done by both Thoughtworkers and clients. It also offered a snapshot of some of the key issues technologists are wrangling with today: from machine learning and explainability (in a talk from Concha Labra) to modernizing a legacy estate (Barry Postma), and data privacy through cryptography (Katharine Jarmul), each talk demonstrated how personal experiences can help solve more universal problems.
“XConf was a wild experience!" said Cat Morris, a Business Analyst. "It was amazing getting to meet so many fascinating and groundbreaking Thoughtworkers from across Europe, and another thing altogether to be able to share a stage with them. There was an incredible variety of people speaking - from deeply technical AI and data experts, to supremely talented QAs and non-technical folks (like me!) who were embraced with open arms."
Cat delivered a talk in the afternoon titled “CEOs don’t care about your infra projects: Why they should and how to make them.” It was, she explains, about her experience working with clients in recent years.
"It was about how important it is for business stakeholders to care about what infrastructure projects are happening in their organization, as infrastructure is fundamental to all other aspects of software delivery," she said. "After giving the talk in Madrid, I had an awesome conversation with a developer who was interested in taking on the tech product owner role in their team. We were able to share war stories and discuss what worked and what didn’t for them. These impromptu conversations would never happen without XConf!"
Being in-person again meant we were able to discuss topics with people from across the tech industry. Conferencing remotely makes it very easy to focus on how a talk impacts our own experiences, so getting the chance to talk to people outside of our bubble over a coffee was eye opening.
Making XConf a success
To be a success, XConf requires exemplary collaboration. Particularly with the return to live events, it needs many teams to work together to make it as seamless as possible. Yes it’s an event by and for technologists, but its success is built on more than just a few people’s insight. As Gill Fordham, Communities and Events Marketing Manager for Thoughtworks Manchester, said, “XConf is such an incredible moment of collaboration for wider teams at Thoughtworks. We see Marketing, TechOps, Demand and Office operations all come together with their best work to really support bringing technologists together and showcasing what Thoughtworks has to offer.”
This makes it a day that’s as important to the Thoughtworks team as much as delegates: “Personally I LOVE the rush of the day, as a supporting event organizer, I have to be on hand to support anyone and everyone! It's such a gratifying experience when the event runs smoothly and you can see all the attendees and speakers enjoying themselves.”
Now XConf Europe is over we’re looking forward to other installments around the world. But we’re also excited to start thinking about what 2023 might look like: what issues are going to matter? What perspectives can we bring to audiences? What new voices might we hear from?
I see the future of XConf and Thoughtworks events as being larger conduits for conversation. They become experiential. So along with the talks, we see full collaboration in action with our wider technologist community. It's great to be back in-person for events and I can't wait to see how they continue to grow and evolve!
It’s impossible to predict the future when it comes to tech: but that’s what makes XConf a joy to organize and a delight to attend.
We hope to see you at an XConf near you soon!
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.